Making good lifestyle choices is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. The choices you make today can help you feel better now and prevent health problems later.
Pap and HPV Tests
The results of your Pap smear can be confusing, but it is important to understand the significance of this test. This National Cancer Institute fact sheet provides a good summary of cervical cancer screening, evaluation and treatment options. Many of your questions will be answered here, and your provider at Golden Gate will be happy to discuss your results with you further.
Preventative care exams and screening tests look for health problems before you become sick. You should see your doctor regularly to detect problems early or prevent them from occurring.
Well-woman exams are the foundation for health, wellness and disease identification and management throughout your life. Healthy living and early disease detection can both lengthen your life and improve the quality of your life. Periodic well-woman exams help women of all ages learn more about healthy habits, community support services and the best ways to care for yourself and your family.
Remember, your health care provider is your best source for advice on healthy living. During your visit, your doctor may ask about your health history; family health history; diet; exercise habits; tobacco, alcohol or drug use; sexual habits; and use of prescription or over-the-counter medications. It is important to give your practitioner complete and honest answers to ensure that you receive the best possible care.
During the physical exam, your doctor may check your height, weight and blood pressure, and perform a breast and pelvic exam. If you are 21 years of age or older, you should have a Pap test to check for abnormal cervical cells. If you are younger than 21, a Pap test is no longer recommended because abnormalities usually spontaneously resolve at this age and over-treatment is more of a concern. Checking for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is a good idea for sexually active women younger than 21. Your doctor may also suggest other tests. depending on your particular circumstances or family medical history.
Cervical Cancer Vaccine
Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) , the most common sexually transmitted infection in adults worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 80 percent of American women will contract at least one strain of HPV by age 50.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved both bivalent and quadrivalent HPV vaccines that can help prevent cervical cancer in women who are vaccinated before they are exposed to the virus. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend HPV vaccination for girls ages 11 or 12, though they also may be given to females as young as 9 or as old as 26.
The HPV vaccine is administered intramuscularly in three 0.5-ml doses based on the following schedule:
- First dose: Administered at elected date.
- Second dose: Given 1 to 2 months (but no less than four weeks) after the first dose.
- Third dose: Given six months (but no less than 24 weeks) after the first dose, and no less than 12 weeks after the second dose.
If the vaccine schedule is interrupted, the series does not need to be restarted, regardless of the length of time between doses. Whenever possible, the same vaccine product should be used for all doses in the series.
Target population: Recommended for females ages 11 or 12, but can be given to those as young as 9.
Catch-up vaccination: Recommended for females ages 13 to 26.
It is up to you to make healthy choices. Work with your doctor to ensure you have all the tests and immunizations needed for your age group and risk factors. Practicing preventive care now can help keep you healthy for years to come.
Once your doctor has spoken with you and completed any necessary exams or tests, he or she may suggest that you make some lifestyle changes. Good habits promote good health. Here are some basic tips for loving a healthy lifestyle:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Lower the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet.
- Maintain a weight that is healthy for your height.
- Exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes on most or all days of the week.
- Do not smoke cigarettes.
- Do not use drugs.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Wear sunscreen and avoid excess sun exposure to help prevent skin cancer.
- Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a vehicle.
- Use a form of birth control if you are able to become pregnant but do not want to become pregnant.
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements you take.
- Do a breast self-exam once a month.
- Seek help if you feel sadness that affects your daily life.
- If you do not feel safe or have ever been harmed by someone close to you, ask for help from someone you trust a close friend, family member, doctor, nurse, counselor or clergy member. You also can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).
- See a dentist regularly to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
- Have routine vision exams.